How it all started:
As some of you are aware, July 3rd-10th I was in Canada. I expected to see the beauty of Jasper and Banff National Park as part of a nice little get away I had been saving up for for some time. What I was not expecting was to bring something back with me.
The second day into the vacation I started feeling terribly ill. I was attempting to stay level headed about it..blaming it on potential altitude sickness or motion sickness due to lots of driving in a rental car. The days following were really quite a blur. I was trying to push through, despite feeling the worst I've ever felt in my life, since I was in a different country. By the grace of God I somehow managed to make it back to the states without having any sort of medical attention whilst in Canada. (That was EASILY the HARDEST plane ride of my LIFE).
What happened following my return home:
I was now a full week into feeling like death by the time I got home and there was still no sign of my body being on the mend. I went into this vacation weighing 121lbs and came back a whopping 111lbs. I wasn't sure what was going on, but it was nothing like I had ever experienced (and I've definitely had my fair share of the flu and the occasional stomach bug). I was so nauseous I couldn't eat (I didn't eat for three straight days while away), and, if I did attempt to eat, it wasn't staying down for very long. I felt like I was a hostage in my own body.
Since I had just had the previous week off from work, I decided I was going to attempt to work for a few days before seeing a doctor. I figured they would take me more seriously if I went in on day 10 still not feeling well.
ER Visit #1:
I somehow managed two days of work before I rushed myself to the emergency room. I thought they would surely help me figure out what was going on. I was extremely dehydrated by this point so, of course, they hooked me up to an IV (helpful). I told the doctor the rundown of my symptoms and mentioned I really believed I had contracted a parasite. He basically brushed everything I said aside and wrote me a script for some nausea medication and told me to buy some Imodium (not helpful in the slightest).
I went back home and finally broke down. I felt incredibly defeated and I felt like because I don't have medical insurance he was being the LEAST helpful. (I don't qualify for Obamacare or medicaid--trust me, I would LOVE to have insurance). I knew that doctor bill was going to be incredibly expensive. And I knew I was probably going to end back up in the ER again. I literally had no relief. And to top it all off, I still felt dehydrated leaving that first ER visit.
ER Visit #2:
Fast forward two more days and I had dropped another 3lbs. I was about halfway through my work day and I collapsed in the break room. At this point, I hadn't had anything substantial to eat in 12 days (I was basically eating a few almonds and a handful of berries in an entire day), I was drinking as much water as possible, but I had no relief. I was still incredibly dehydrated.
As soon as I could stand back on my feet, I left the salon and drove myself to yet another ER. I cried and prayed the whole way there for some answers and relief. An IV, a dozen lab tests, and a CT scan later, it was determined I did, in fact, have a parasite in my body (if anyone knows me, you know this is my literal worst nightmare). I was informed that if I had waited much longer I could have gone into renal failure, and if that had happened, my other organs would have shortly followed. (Yes, my anxiety was through the roof).
Finally a diagnosis and treatment:
They wrote me a script for a heavy duty anti-parasitic medication. I was then informed that they try to avoid prescribing this drug due to its strength and that I was going to feel like I was going through chemo. I would have most, if not all of the same symptoms. They also mentioned I was definitely going to feel worse while on this drug, and I might have to come back into the ER. (Perfect). And then, the best news yet: the medication probably wouldn't kill all of it. It would kill enough of it to where it wasn't going to kill me, but I would need to make a lifestyle change to stay in control of my own body. In order to flush it from my system I need to avoid caffeine, alcohol, dairy, sugar (including fruit), and all carbs (both flour and wheat) for the next 8 months-1 year. And I was to eat everything as fresh and organic as possible. (So....what CAN I eat exactly?!)
ER Visit #3:
I started the medication immediately. Three times a day for ten days. Five days into it, I was feeling so horrible I started panicking in the middle of the night. I sent a text out to a friend who is a pharmacist and a client who is a nurse just to try to get an outside opinion (I REALLY didn't want to have to go into the ER a third time if I didn't have to). Both told me I needed to get to a hospital ASAP. (Shoutout to Jeff and Kerrie for being amazing and responding promptly).
Round three. More tests, another IV (I was STILL dehydrated), and some pain medication. I still felt terrible..but slightly more stable, at the very least.
I was told to keep taking the medication. It was so rough I was sleeping about 18 hours/day the entire time I was on it. I couldn't even walk to the bathroom..much less try to work or even function like a normal human being. At one point I literally thought I wasn't going to make it to see another morning.
I have no idea how I managed to take all 30 pills, but I somehow did. Two days after I stopped the medication, I started to feel like I was human again (although, I still was so weak I couldn't stand for long).
Altogether, I was horribly sick for 21 days. I went 33 days before I had another meal to where I felt full and satisfied. I've never gone so long with eating so little. It was easily the most terrifying experience of my life. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I would even be here to type any of this up.
I've never been much of a morning person, but I can truly say that I feel infinitely blessed every morning my feet hit the floor and I stand up from bed. I never knew how spiritual and emotional that every day ritual would become for me.
I'm trying to remain as positive as I can and take each day as they come. I'm finally learning to cook, and I'm having to get really creative with veggies and protein. (Lol)
The reason I started this campaign:
All the lighthearted jokes aside, My fight isn't over. It's just beginning. I still have more doctors and specialists I must see and stay in contact with throughout this next year to make sure I stay on top of this.
I've paid off my first ER visit already (along with all of the medications and supplements I've had to buy--almost $2,000 total in a span of 2 weeks. This was everything I had left in my savings). With the other two ER visits, I owe a substantial amount.
I'm going to be honest..I am TERRIBLE with asking for help. Especially when it comes to money. If I thought I could handle this burden on my own, I would.
But the bills keep rolling in. To date I have received bills totaling $23,986.73 with a substantial amount of additional medical expenses to follow. For those of you who feel it on your heart to contribute monetarily or share this campaign, I cannot thank you enough. Your support is greatly appreciated!!
PSA: This parasite (Giardia) can be found in all 50 states and around the world. It can be found in fresh water, whether it's hot or cold. It can enter your body through the soles of your feet or via ingestion. I highly recommend never going without shoes in any fresh body of water (including natural hot springs). Not all cases are as severe as mine, but I wanted to shed light on the situation and possibly prevent someone else from experiencing what I'm going through. Giardia is difficult to diagnose. Because of this, it delayed me receiving the treatment necessary to fight it in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the longer you go before a diagnosis, the more harm it causes your body. It can actually prevent significant absorption of nutrients in your small intestine. It can lead to lasting damage that you can struggle with for years, and it is extremely hard to expel from your body. I am doing everything I possibly can to be proactive in this fight, including the extreme dietary measures.
- Sophia McDonald
- Christine Elliott
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